Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn and the Art of Letting Go

Here in California, our change of seasons are subtler than in other parts of the world, but they still impact us.

Photo: strogoscope
Last Friday, I sat outside the DMV as my daughter applied for her driver's permit. There were oak leaves on the ground - beautiful splashes of yellow with orange and brown singing the edges. I picked one up and crumpled it, feeling the rubbery texture of the innermost part of the leaf, the part closest to the stem. Maybe this leaf wasn't quite ready to be released, yet here it was.

Are we ever ready to let go?

As my "baby" begins her rite of passage towards independence, I keep thinking of the rubber part inside, and I wonder if the leaf protests, or just accepts the truth of the season: Fall is for letting go.

The change of the seasons varies year to year and place to place; our ability to accept change varies, too. As a teacher who works primarily with populations that are dealing with change, I see variety in how people let go and accept their new reality. Everyone has a different timeline - some leaves hold out until the very end of the season, after all - and I see my role as helping my students understand what is available to them, no matter the circumstances.

I'm leading two different workshops to round out this very full year. One is geared towards yoga teachers, but is open to practitioners, too; the other is geared towards yoga students, but is open to teachers, too. Both are offering tools to let go of what can't be done, sowing seeds of what can be done, instead.

Break it Down: Adapting Classical Yoga Postures For All Abilities with Talya and Lorien
Saturday, Oct 4, 1:00-4:00pm at MindBody Zone in Fremont, $45
Pre-register HERE

Yoga for Cancer Survivorship Workshop with Lorien
Saturday, Nov 8, 1:30-3:30pm at Samyama Yoga Center in Palo Alto, $35
Pre-register HERE

Whether you are a teacher or a practitioner, you will gain insight on how to use yoga as a tool to let go of what was and work with what is. I hope to see you there. Until then, enjoy the leaves!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Goals, Not Dreams

I recently watched a video of Australian artist Tim Minchin giving an address at Western Australia University, and I really resonated with what he calls his "nine life lessons". In this address he states,

"I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye."
You can watch the full video, below, and it's well worth the time. It's funny and insightful, and it came to me at exactly the right time.

Even as a child my dreams always had backup plans. Adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I replied, "Prima Ballerina." They they asked me what I would do if that didn't work out. I shrugged and responded, "I'll be a ballet teacher." I remember having those conversations as early as seven years old! I was never one to romanticize my dreams. I wasn't all that connected to them. In college, I went through four majors - all wildly different from each other. When I left engineering to teach yoga, I did so with the understanding that my path is a windy one, and to try to look around the corner will only lead me to suffering.

So, I adopted Mr. Minchin's philosophy of pouring my heart into whatever work lay in front of me, always staying open to what comes next, but never trying to force it. Which is how teaching yoga to people with cancer came about. I didn't actively seek this work, but once I devoted my heart to it, I found it really fit.

Back in December, I decided to set several goals for myself for the year 2014. I wrote about these goals as being "leaps" in the Year of the Horse. Today, I'm looking back on those goals:

In April, I led a training for yoga teachers who wish to work with people who have cancer. This 40-hour training was conducted mostly by myself, with some guest speakers. The teachers that I've studied with made it look so easy to lead, but I wasn't fooled; I knew it would be a bog task to organize, write and present the material in a way that made sense and lasting impressions. I learned some big lessons there, and will implement them when I run this program again next year.

In July, I went to Africa with my daughter and 17 other women for a yoga and service retreat. This trip across the world is still affecting me. I've written one blog about it here, but I'm sure there are more in me. I just haven't processed the experience fully yet.

This Saturday is the Pose for a Purpose Yoga Festival and Fundraiser at Vasona park in Los Gatos. Back in December, I had the idea to raise money for Cancer CAREpoint, and realized that I couldn't do it alone. I need to ask my friends for help. Asking is hard for me; it's a practice. It turns out that asking was the easiest part! People can be so generous. Not everyone, no. But 99%, which keeps me hopeful.

As of yesterday, we earned enough in festival ticket sales to cover our expenses - money that my husband and I have spent out of our pockets to make this event happen. You can imagine my relief! So now, all the ticket sales moving forward will be donated to Cancer CAREpoint, a nonprofit organization that make dealing with cancer just a little bit easier. This was the goal all along: to have money flow into Cancer CAREpoint. By passionately dedicating myself to this goal, it has become a reality.

I do have a glimpse of the next shining thing, as Minchin calls it, but I'll save that for another post...

Some people have big perspectives; they can hold their big dreams for a long time until they become reality. I prefer smaller goals, and the dogged discipline it takes to see them through.

To find out more about the festival, go to
To  find out more about Cancer CAREpoint, go to